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Aurora

Conservancy survey says 'tipping point' approaching fast



WORKING TO PRESERVE LAND One of the Geneva Lake Conservancy's goals is to create easements and land protection agreements. During the past several years, the conservancy has had its share of successes. Currently, there are nearly 1,000 acres of protected land mostly around Geneva Lake. "We are actively seeking landowners who have land with natural habitat worthy of protection and doing conservation easements," Conservancy Board member Chuck Ebeling said. "I call it a create your own state park program. Many people have such beautiful real estate and natural aspects of their lands and they are worried what will happen to it beyond their ownership. This is a way to protect it for the future." Among the larger land easement areas are the Town of Linn Community Nature Park at corner of South Lake Shore Drive and Maple Ridge Road and the Charlie Moelter property located on Highway 50 in Lyons, a few miles east of the city. "There is potential for thousands of acres of protected land in our area," Ebeling said. "That includes agriculture land as well. Conservation easements are one of the tools to create these green necklaces that can stretch from community to community and breed continuity of natural habitat that preserves what we had 100 or 200 years ago."
May 19, 2010 | 08:58 AM
This is the second in a two-part series about the Geneva Lake Conservancy and issues revolving around conservation in the area. A recent Regional News story discussed the impact of the economic slowdown on the conservancy.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy uses surveys to take the pulse of area residents regarding growth, development and conservation.

In less than five years, the nonprofit organization has conducted two surveys, the most recent this past winter focused on nearly a thousand supporters of the Geneva Lake Conservancy.

The consensus is not much different now than from the area survey in 2006.

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According to the Geneva Lake Conservancy, nearly 70 percent of the respondents believe the area's environment will be irrevocably injured within 20 years by population growth, increasing housing, density and increased boating activity.

Fifty percent see that "tipping point" coming in a decade or less. However, more than half of the respondents believe the community is striving to reach a balance between sustainable conservation and economic development and growth.

Nearly 20 percent of those who received surveys returned them.

"We think the response, though perhaps tempered by winter weather, is statistically significant and reflects how those locally interested in conservation issues feel," Conservancy Executive Director Joe McHugh stated in a press release.

"The conservancy's stated mission is to protect the environmental character of the Geneva lakes area, including the land and waters near Geneva Lake, Lake Como and Delavan Lake."

Conservancy Board member Chuck Ebeling called the survey extensive, probing the respondent's understanding of conservation issues and land protection and easements.

"Do they feel if enough is being done to protect the lake?" Ebeling asked. "We are looking for the nuggets of information so we can get to work."

The biggest priority for the conservancy, according to respondents, is to keep water clean as more should be done to protect the lake's water quality.

"The survey in 2006 was beyond the members of the conservancy," McHugh said. "It was clear people were concerned about the status of the environmental character. They felt that we were close to a tipping point within 10 to 15 years and they weren't in favor of rampant growth in Walworth County."

Conservancy Board President Bob Klockars said the survey was done to determine what a small group of people think about the issues.

"There's a demographic on the lake and off the lake," he said. "We know our market and that's why we're doing it. What the survey does is reaffirm what we know. But, it makes differentiations. It is the 20 percent that we don't know about that is where we are putting our resources and energy."

According to the most recent survey results, respondents believed the conservancy can do more to protect the area's natural resources and the priorities include protecting area farmland and open spaces.

Nearly 80 percent of those who responded said government does not do enough to protect the area's environmental character.

"We know the conservancy has a big job ahead of it, but we have a determined board and staff and we feel that the community is with us," McHugh stated. "That is very encouraging as we can only do our job with the community's active participation, ideas and support."

Further results of the survey have not been released and will be used internally by the conservancy.

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